RORγt-Expressing Tregs Drive the Growth of Colitis-Associated Colorectal Cancer by Controlling IL6 in Dendritic Cells

Angelamaria Rizzo, Martina Di Giovangiulio, Carmine Stolfi, Eleonora Franzè, Hans-Joerg Fehling, Rita Carsetti, Ezio Giorda, Alfredo Colantoni, Angela Ortenzi, Massimo Rugge, Claudia Mescoli, Giovanni Monteleone, Massimo C Fantini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic inflammation drives colitis-associated colorectal cancer (CAC) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Treg) coexpressing the Th17-related transcription factor RORγt accumulate in the lamina propria of IBD patients, where they are thought to represent an intermediate stage of development toward a Th17 proinflammatory phenotype. However, the role of these cells in CAC is unknown. RORγt+FoxP3+ cells were investigated in human samples of CAC, and their phenotypic stability and function were investigated in an azoxymethane/dextran sulfate sodium model of CAC using Treg fate-mapping reporter and Treg-specific RORγt conditional knockout mice. Tumor development and the intratumoral inflammatory milieu were characterized in these mice. The functional role of CTLA-4 expressed by Tregs and FoxO3 in dendritic cells (DC) was studied in vitro and in vivo by siRNA-silencing experiments. RORγt expression identified a phenotypically stable population of tumor-infiltrating Tregs in humans and mice. Conditional RORγt knockout mice showed reduced tumor incidence, and dysplastic cells exhibited low Ki67 expression and STAT3 activation. Tumor-infiltrating DCs produced less IL6, a cytokine that triggers STAT3-dependent proliferative signals in neoplastic cells. RORγt-deficient Tregs isolated from tumors overexpressed CTLA-4 and induced DCs to have elevated expression of the transcription factor FoxO3, thus reducing IL6 expression. Finally, in vivo silencing of FoxO3 obtained by siRNA microinjection in the tumors of RORγt-deficient mice restored IL6 expression and tumor growth. These data demonstrate that RORγt expressed by tumor-infiltrating Tregs sustains tumor growth by leaving IL6 expression in DCs unchecked. Cancer Immunol Res; 6(9); 1082-92. ©2018 AACR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1082-1092
Number of pages11
JournalCancer immunology research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


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